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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Public health workers end strike after gov’t’s assurance

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By Tabora Bojang

Public health workers have called off their sit-down strike after getting assurance from the government that their allowances will be paid in May.

This latest strike by the Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers (APEHOG) which comprises over 200 health workers began April 5th after grievances over what they called delayed inclusion in the newly approved allowances for doctors and Ph.D. holders under the Ministry of Health.

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It is the latest in a string of work disruptions to hit the country’s ailing health care system.

The Association said in a letter issued yesterday that it has suspended the industrial action to allow the government fulfills its commitment to include them in the new allowance scheme.

“Since the 6th of April, the executive and the allowance task force of APEHOG had been engaging the administration of the Ministry of Health and most recently the Secretary-General and Head of Civil Service to amicably find a solution to the allowance issue. On the 10th of April, 2022, APEHOG convenes an emergency congress to come to a consensus with regards to the sit-down strike. We wish to submit to the notice of the general public that as parts of the resolutions that were agreed upon by the emergency congress, we have finally arrived at a conclusion that all Public Health Officers should report back to work on Tuesday, 12th April 2022, marking the end of the first phase of the sit-down strike. This is as a result of our engagement meeting with the SG and Head of civil service that our entitled allowances will be paid by end of May. We hope that our demands will be met by the agreed date to avoid the reoccurrence of such a situation in the future.”

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The Association however claimed it has witnessed a series of external efforts that sought to intimidate its members during the strike; “but we have realized how unified, professional and strong we are as public health workforce. Over the years, Public Health Officers across the country have fell victim to cadre discrimination and unjust treatment by authorities of the Ministry of Health. These unjust treatments include but are not limited to unjustified redeployment of senior public health officers, demotion of senior Public Health Officers, undermining of the expert opinion of public health officers in matters of public health, and most recently the exclusion of public health officers in the approved allowance scheme for the Ministry of Health staff.”

The director of health services, Dr. Mustapha Bittaye expressed optimism that the allowance issue would be resolved before the time assured to the health workers.

As public health workers play crucial roles in the fight against Covid-19 which is mildly present in the country, Dr. Bittaye said the ministry is planning to re-launch a national Covid-19 vaccination exercise to ensure the majority of the people are vaccinated.

“We are working closely to solve this [strike] and we will make sure we work closely with everyone.  We are expecting a new wave [Covid-19] in July and we hope that by that time, most of our populace are vaccinated.”

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